Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Behind the Scenes – Finger Lakes Wine Symposium

The First Finger Lakes Wine Symposium held at Hobart & William Smith College featured star power beyond the finalists in the Riesling Challenge. After months of coordinated effort, everything came together on a brisk Saturday morning in Geneva.
Guests were treated to a panel of distinguished wine industry professionals, a distinguished guest speaker, a five course meal paired with Finger Lakes wines, and, of course, a group of the best Rieslings in four categories ranging from Dry to Sweet.

Beginning with opening remarks, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, got straight to the point. “Governor Cuomo wants to support the wine industry by putting its resources behind the effort to expand New York’s Wine Industry. It (New York’s Wine Industry) is an essential feature of New York’s economy contributing more than 4.5 billion dollars in sales revenue, job creation, and tourism.” By Albany creating the one-stop program, wineries will be able to handle all of its government interaction through one agency.

Duffy mentioned that he had read “Summer in a Glass” by Evan Dawson, detailing the struggles and triumphs of wine-makers in building the foundation for wine industry in the Finger Lakes.” He also spoke highly of the work being done by the Regional Economic Development Council in the Finger Lakes to fund projects that will simulate the job creation.

The keynote speaker for the Wine Symposium was former White House Executive Chef, Walter Schieb, who provided the attendees a great deal of insight into how he applied for the position at the White House including his job interview with Mrs. Hillary Clinton. “She (the first Lady) wanted to bring contemporary American cuisine to the White House and in particular for State Dinners.” Schieb’s animated dialogueue provided a keen level interest among all the attendees, with a view not ordinary seen in such a politically charged environment.

The Finger Lakes Wine Symposium was about educating the wine consumers about understanding their choices when pairing wine with different types of food. Walter Schieb commented that the wine choice can be either complimentary or contrasting to the menu. “Try to get out of your comfort zone when making wine choice to pair with meals,” explained Schieb.

Another featured wine discussion panel member, James Treadwell offered many intriguing comments including the notion that “Sparkling wines can be paired with just about anything especially at formal occasion or events.” Treadwell added,” Traditionally, red wines have been featured with cheese, but again white wines offer different experiences.”

Walter Schieb continued, “The Old World has perfected, over the centuries, the pairing of various cheese flavors with fine wine.” These dialogues continued over each of the fabulously prepares offerings. “All wines can’t be great or famous, but they should be distinctive,” said Schieb, “all French wines show flavorful characteristics, even the simplest table wines.”
The announcement of the Riesling Challenge’s Most Outstanding Wines marked the conclusion of day long activities. The Riesling Challenge award winning wines were judged by the Finger Lakes’ harshest critics, the winemakers themselves.

The fourteen finalists in the four IRF categories of Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet and Sweet were among Who’s Who in the regional wine industry and featuring many of most recognized Finger Lakes Wineries.

Award winners in each category were as follows: Best Dry: Hosmer 2011 Dry Riesling, Best Medium Dry: Fox Run 2011 Reserve Riesling, Best Medium Sweet: Glenora 2011 Riesling, Best Sweet: Anyela’s Vineyard 2011 Riesling

Although, Schieb has not traveled extensively in the Finger Lakes, he was very impressed by the quality of wines produced here.

“By focusing on the eight to ten varietals that fit the terroir (geology, geography, climate, soil conditions) of the region, the Finger Lakes wineries have been able to establish wines with unique aromas and flavors gaining national and international attention in competition.” Schieb went further to say: “the improvement in Finger Lakes wines over the last twenty-five years have been due to advancements in winemaking technology, processing and equipment along with developing strong viticulture education programs.”

By Randy Agness, Guest Journalist